I've had a several people ask me about my birthing experience with Breanna and the title of this post instantly came to light. THE POWER OF LOVE...because that's what it really is all about.
I'll start from the beginning...
When I found out I was pregnant with Breanna, I knew I wanted to do things differently this time around. So, how would things be different? I guess I have to tell you about my birthing experience with Brock first.
My pregnancy with Brock would be the first time I would experience becoming a mother. I gained almost 50 pounds with Brock, had extremely high blood pressure throughout my pregnancy, and was diagnosed with Graves Disease (Thyroid Disease) about 35 weeks into my pregnancy. At my 40-week appointment, my blood pressure was 180/104 and a urine test confirmed that I had protein in my urine and I was diagnosed with Preclampsia. I was immediately sent to Portsmouth Naval Hospital where I was to be induced. I didn't know much about my options, about what to expect, or what I really wanted out of my birthing experience. I just knew I was tired of being pregnant and that being induced, at this point, didn't sound too bad. To make a long story short, I was induced, given an epidural, and had Brock almost 18 hours later. I tore pretty badly while delivering Brock and had over 30 stitches. I didn't get to hold Brock right away, they whisked him away to the warmer and cleaned him up before I was able to hold him to my chest. We were in the hospital for 3 days because my blood pressure wouldn't come down. 3 days later, we went home to start our life as a family of three. And 2 days after that I ended up back in the hospital from severe, crippling pains in my abdomen. I would spend 3 days in the hospital with every test known to man being run on me, including a test that required me to be injected with radioactive dye, only for them to never really be able to make a diagnosis. They chalked it up to some odd post-pregnancy illness. My husband was at home with a newborn baby on his own for those 3 days, I didn't get to bond with my son like I should have, and breastfeeding quickly went out the door. It was chaotic and stressful but at the time, I was just thankful to finally go home and take care of my son.
Fast forward to 5 years later. As I said, I knew I wanted to do things differently. I did my research, did a lot of reading, and decided that I wanted to have a natural, pain medication free delivery, on my own terms, this time around. I honestly believe that it was a combination of the epidural and being induced that made me so ill after I had Brock. I didn't want to go through that again and felt strongly that if I could avoid medical interventions and let my body do what it was born to naturally do, that things would be different.
After much research, I decided that I wanted to deliver my baby at DePaul at the Midwifery Center. The Midwifery Center at DePaul offers women who are seeking natural birthing experiences a support system, education, wonderful medical care, and a place to comfortably birth your child naturally while still being within the confines of a hospital, should any complications arise. Once the decision was made, Andy and I attended an Open House and we instantly felt at ease. The environment in the Midwiferey Center is so much calmer than your typical Labor and Delivery room. One of the requirements to deliver there is to take a Natural Childbirth Education class. So, Andy and I enrolled in a class taught by the Birth InSight Doulas and let me tell you, we learned SO much in that class. We walked away with a better understanding of the birthing process, knowing different positions to help cope with the pain of contractions, about different supplements to take to aid your body during labor and delivery, and about the mechanics of a woman's body and why laying in a bed with your legs up in stirrups is about the WORST position a woman can labor in! We also decided, after taking their class, to hire Birth InSight Doulas to attend our labor and delivery. Because we weren't sure whether Andy would be around or not, we wanted to make sure to surround me with a support network that would help me get through the process and be there to assist me as I labored and offer suggestions to help me focus on the end result...meeting my baby. So, we had our hospital picked out, had chose the Midwiferey Center, had taken our natural childbirth class, and had hired a Doula. Now, I just needed to take care of myself and get ready for Breanna.
I worked out my entire pregnancy, right until the last week. You wouldn't believe the crazy looks I would get in the gym but I kept going. I worked out, stayed active in general, and focused on being as healthy as I could be for my baby. I gained 25 pounds with Breanna...half of what I gained with Brock. The weeks came and went and as my due date came closer, I became more nervous about my decision to have a natural, pain medication free birth. It didn't help that anytime I mentioned my plans to someone I would get looks of horror, people telling me I was crazy, and just a general non-understanding of why I would want to go that route. But I knew why - I wanted to be an active participant in my labor and delivery, I wanted to be healthy after my delivery to be able to care for my newborn baby and my son, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it...that my body was made to labor naturally.
The weeks went by as I approached 37-weeks I had started to dilate and efface. I thought for sure I would have this baby at any time. But then I hit 38 weeks, and then 39, and then 40 weeks with little to no "progress". I would soon hit 41-weeks which meant I would need a non-stress test, an ultrasound to check my amniotic fluid levels and make sure Breanna wasn't too big, and a regular appointment. All went well and everything looked perfect. I had another appointment on that Friday, I was now 41 weeks and 3 days. My wonderful midwife, Jennifer, sat me down and told me if I didn't have Breanna by Monday morning that it would be medically necessary to induce me. Being induced would mean I couldn't deliver in The Midwifery Center, that I couldn't have the water birth that I had so long envisioned, and that I would be attached to monitors throughout my labor...I was devastated. I had tears in my eyes but Jennifer re-assured me that just because I was in Labor and Delivery didn't mean I couldn't have the birthing experience I wanted - I could still go pain-medication free. But I had my doubts. Knowing that Pitocin makes your contractions stronger and that your body is not working with you as it would if you went into labor on your own scared me...actually, it terrified me. I went home on Friday and talked to Breanna, told her I needed her to come on her own, that mommy needed her to listen. Friday came and went and then Saturday came and went. I had all but given up hope. And then...it began.
I started having contractions just after midnight on Sunday. I relaxed and listened to my body, as my natural childbirth class had taught me, got up and walked around and drank some water. Around 1AM my contractions started to get noticeably stronger, more painful, and closer together. I knew this was the real thing. I woke Andy up and he got in the shower. By the time he got out of the shower, my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and were very intense, it was time to call our Doula. He called Aimee and she suggested that I get in the shower and try to relax but I refused. I don't know why, I just did. S0, Andy called our Midwife and after she heard me laboring, she suggested we come in. So, we called our neighbor who came and got Brock and we headed to the hospital. The drive to the hospital was painful, very painful. Sitting down was the worst possible position for me, it made it harder for me to work with my body through the contractions. When we finally go there, I was relieved to see Aimee had arrived as well. I had to brace myself before getting out of the car but Aimee was right there telling me to take my time, to breath, relax, and try to loosen up my body. We walked into the ER and up to the check-in where there were 3 quite horrified nurses looking at me. One of them immediately brought me a wheel chair but I refused, sitting down was the last thing I wanted to do. Again, she insisted and I refused and this time Andy and Aimee both shot her looks and Andy reiterated that I wasn't going to sit down. So what does she do? She goes and grabs a stretcher! Look lady, if I'm not going to sit down I'm sure as HELL not going to lay down. One of the nurses said she didn't want me to have the baby in the ER...well, then I guess you should just let me walk myself to the elevators and into the Midwifery Center, shouldn't you? And that they did. It took what seemed like forever to get up there because I had to stop every minute to minute and a half, brace myself against a wall, and work through my contractions...but we got there. And when I saw my midwife, I instantly sat on the floor. I felt SAFE here, with this support team, with this doula, with this midwife, and with my husband by my side.
I got to my room, a little before 3:30AM, and was put on the monitors for the required 20 minutes. In the Midwifery Center, you're only monitored upon admission, to make sure baby is going well, and every so often. Jennifer checked me and I was only 5cm dilated. 5 cm?!?!? "MY GOD!" I thought to myself, if I'm in this much pain at 5cm HOW am I going to make it to 10cm and pushing a baby out? Jennifer and Aimee kept reminding me to breathe, relax my body, and to make lower toned groans to help loosen my body. They knew I wanted to get in the jacuzzi tub to help myself relax so I was given an enema to clean me out, as is suggested, before getting in the tub. Within minutes, everything I had eaten in the last day was expelled from my body...gross as it sounds it was also a relief. I went to the bathroom to finish and also clean myself up a bit. It was at that point that I started to feel a different pain, as I sat there on the toilet, and I thought to myself, "MY GOD, I'm going to have this baby on the toilet!" I couldn't speak because I was in so much pain but a power came over me I had never felt before and I got up and walked back into the run where the jacuzzi tub was waiting. I didn't wait on permission, I took off my clothes and climbed in. My body relaxed instantly as I entered the water. This was my happy place, this is where I wanted to be. But within 5 minutes, I felt the most unbearable pain I had ever felt. I looked at my midwife and I remember saying, "I can't do this...I just can't.." And I don't remember exactly what she said to me but it was along the lines of, this is what you wanted, what you're feeling is your baby coming down, this is what you've prepared for, now do IT! And Aimee was right there telling me my body could do this, it was made for this...I felt the urge to push and I remember letting out this animalistic grunt and just pushing. And with that push Breanna's head was out. My midwife had my turn over on all fours in the water and she had me deliver Breanna in that position. Breanna was here...and I had done it. I had just delivered my baby...Breanna and I had done things on our own terms, on our own time, in our own way...and the way nature designed us to do it. When she came out, she was blue and not crying but I was reassured that this was normal for babies born in the water. I was handed my baby, who was still attached to me by her umbilical cord, and on my own power, I got up, got out of the tub, and walked to the bed where I would spend the next hour and a half holding my baby close to my chest, bonding with her, and in pure amazement of what we, as a team..us girls...had just accomplished.
Looking back now, I can't tell you how I got through those labor pains. I went from being 5cm dilated to 10cm and delivering a perfect baby girl in less than an hour. But you know what? I do know how I did it...the POWER OF LOVE. It was pure, unselfish love for my baby...that's what got me through our labor. Knowing we were doing this together, we were doing what we were made to do...and knowing I would be meeting my baby girl soon, that's what got me through it. Those labor pains would only last a short time but the love I have for my little girl will last me a LIFETIME. As I sit here writing this, watching Breanna in the living room napping on Andy's chest, I'm still in amazement at what we accomplished. It was almost an out-of-body experience. I don't remember all the fine details but I remember the pain, I remember the fear I had, I remember finally letting my body take over and do the work, I remember having people surrounding me KNOWING I could do this, and I remember meeting my baby girl, as they pulled her out from the water...looking at her and knowing we had just accomplished our first big milestone together...welcome to the world my beautiful little girl.
In the days following, things have been so much better than they were in comparison to after having Brock. I am taking it easier, knowing I need to take it easy to recover faster, and focusing on establishing a good breastfeeding routine with Breanna. I feel 100% better, I don't feel sick at all, and I feel...relieved. It will be an adjustment, adjusting to being a mommy to two children but I will tell you Brock is adjusting beautifully. He LOVES his baby sister, loved holding her, loves helping take care of her...and Andy and I have made a very strong effort to make Brock feel special. He's got special toys and special time with daddy too.
For those of you that have asked, the best advice I can give to you is to follow your heart and know that you have options. Research your options and choose what is best for you and your baby. If you truly want to experience a natural childbirth, without medical interventions, you CAN do it. It may not be for everyone but I truly believe that if you WANT to do it...you CAN do it. It has been perhaps the most painful experience of my life but the most rewarding, empowering, and most unselfish act of love of my life as well. The power of love is truly the most beautiful power of all.